By Joe Brancatelli
April 8, 2010 -- Meet the new news. Same as the old news. And, yes, we won't get fooled again.

Sorry, I don't quote The Who very often. Fact is, I don't even like The Who very much. But what do you want me to say?

The fools at United Airlines and US Airways are talking merger. Again. The Killer Bs at Spirit Airlines have a lunatic-fringe idea guaranteed to further debase and disrupt the travel experience. Again. A guy smoking in the lav makes a shoe-bomb joke, fighters are scrambled and the right-wing bloggers go batty. Again.

So let's just get on with this. Really. I got James Taylor and Carole King tickets in June…

When United and US Airways tried to merge a decade ago, it was a different world. Then it was just the Wolfman (former United boss Steve Wolf) trying to dump his current airline, US Airways, on one of his hapless former subordinates. (Read all about it here.) Today it's about the boss of the Barbarians at the Boarding Gate, United chief Glenn Tilton, looking to escape with his ill-gotten gains by dumping United on Doug Parker, who runs crappy little US Airways and believes he deserves to run a bigger crappy airline.

Think I am kidding? Well, consider this: No one, not even the never-saw-a-merger-we-didn't-love security analysts, thinks a United-US Airways merger makes sense. Too many union issues. Too little route synergy. Too little marketing savvy or quality product or anything. Not even much chance to "save" money by downsizing. So unless you think this is about United trying to convince Continental Airlines to come back to the merger table, it boils down to Tilton wanting out and looking for a way to dump it on Parker, who'd love to have it.

After the industry's longest, most expensive bankruptcy ever, Tilton brought United out of Chapter 11 in 2006 and, surprise, he ended up as the carrier's largest individual shareholder. After four years of disasters, downsizing and monstrous losses, Tilton wants to retire and cash out, so he needs to get someone to take on United and its aging fleet, unhappy employees and shrinking route network. The only willing candidate is Parker at US Airways, who grandiosely tried to take over Delta in a hostile merger a few years ago. He thinks he's a hotshot because he once did a decent job fixing flyspeck America West after it was almost destroyed by Bill Franke (more on him later). No matter that his tenure at US Airways, which he took over in the Air Frankenstein merger, has been marked by a long string of losses, the defection of the carrier's most frequent travelers and declining standards of service (yes, even by the old US Airways standards). Parker hasn't even settled all the union issues from that merger.

I say let 'em merge. We'll get rid of Tilton, Parker will tank the combined carriers and we can move along with remaking the nation's aviation system.

Let's make this simple, okay? Spirit Airlines is an awful airline run and funded by awful people. People like Bill Franke, who once turned around an America West jet halfway through its flight because he wanted the plane to service a charter. People like Ben Baldanza and Barry Biffle, the so-called Killer Bs who helped drive the old US Airways into oblivion.

You shouldn't fly Spirit because the airline's service is repellant, the seat pitch is non-existent and the carrier is constantly and repeatedly fined by the Transportation Department for lying about its fares and fees in advertising and on its Web site. So who cares that it now wants to charge $20-$45 if you want to put a carry-on bag in the overhead locker on one of its flights? Just don't fly the airline. Then you don't have to worry about it.

And kudos to Chris Elliott, who snared this interview with DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. If I were the Killer Bs, I wouldn't want the DOT secretary talking that kind of trash about me. When I trash you, it just hurts the ego. When LaHood disses you, I smell more fines and new regulations.

So a Qatari diplomat sneaks into the lavatory on United Flight 663 last night and lights up a cigarette. People smell the smoke and someone in the flight crew challenges him. The idiot diplomat, Mohammed Madadi, jokes that he was trying to light his shoes. Great. So the fighter jets get scrambled, the plane is escorted to Denver and everyone gets searched and delayed. And, of course, he had no explosives. (Although he was apparently on his way to visit a jailed Qatari national who is a confessed terrorist.) Because he has diplomatic immunity, he was released without charges and will probably leave (or be booted out) of the country.

Hardly worth our time, of course. Fools like this make life on the road the trial that it is. It'd be much ado about almost nothing, except for the cost, the annoyance and all the attendant froth of watching the cable-news networks trying to gin up "breaking news" about the non-incident. Oh, and there's this: the wingnuts on the right who decided that it was an attempted bombing and it was all Obama's fault.

ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

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